Triad first-generation college graduates hit hard by canceled graduations

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It’s not just high school seniors suffering from missing out on traditional graduation ceremonies.

One group, in particular, is the first-generation college graduates. It’s a major accomplishment they say is truly special to them. 

Kasie Sands is from the Triad area, and she’s a first-generation college student graduating from East Carolina University. She is one of the many students who will not be able to participate in traditional ceremonies because of the COVID-19 threat. 

“It`s insanely difficult because about a week or two before they called off the ceremony, that’s when I got excited to walk so it hit me hard,” said Sands over a video chat interview Wednesday afternoon. 

As a first-generation graduate, the chance to walk across the stage to receive her degree is momentous.

For Sands, coming from a small town and moving to a bigger city was huge adjustment. She eventually gained friends through her job on campus as a Resident Assistant. She explains how challenging navigating through college can be.

“My parents didn’t have much of a chance to go to college,” Sands said. “My dad came from a very rural farming family, and so we came from dirt poor and we`ve worked our way up. So I`m so proud and so grateful for my parents helping me out during this journey.”

Other first-generation grads like Christopher Raville, Elon University grad, echoes that same situation of how getting through the college experience is different for first-generation grads. 

“Every kind of experience that I think is unique to the college experience is something that’s a little bit different for first-generation college students, you know. Move-in day I moved myself in,” said Raville. 

He says given his own life adversities he’s using that same strength to focus on the positives of not having a traditional ceremony. 

“A lot of the support again that family generally provides just wasn’t something I had along with me so it’s just something that I’ve done very much for myself,” said Raville.  

Raville launched Gen-One Initiative, a non-profit organization that dresses first generational students for jobs, campus events, internships and beyond.

Using his personal struggles as an opportunity to help other students who are new to the post-secondary options. 

He says initially it was upsetting to find out there would be no traditional ceremony especially because this was one of the moments that motivated him to the finish line. 

Even though graduation won’t be the same, Sands plans to still celebrate by having a family and friends drive-by and honor her accomplishment on the day of her graduation. 

Both graduates want all Class of 2020 graduates to remain positive. 

“This is really something that, you know, is all kind of making us realize how important being able to persevere and adapt to situations can be,” said Raville. 

“We can all band together and come out of this stronger, and we know it`s hard right now but, like I said, to look back in 20 years, it’s a little sliver of your life but it’s going to be the coolest story,” said Sands. 

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